Workers for Chile’s Escondida mine accept BHP’s offer and will not strike-union source

By Fabian Cambero

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – GWorkers at Chile’s Escondida mine accepted a new offer from BHP Group Ltd and will not move forward with a strike that had been planned for Monday and Wednesday, their union said Monday.

Workers represented by the Sindicato No. 1 union at the Australian company’s mine in northern Chile, the largest copper deposit in the world, had been threatening to strike over safety concerns.

The union said that at 3:00 a.m. (0700 GMT) 1,495 members out of the 1,902 who voted accepted the company’s new proposal.

“This proposal contains a series of concrete and verifiable measures to improve the hygiene and safety of workers,” the union said in a statement. “Especially an intense joint inspection program between the union and the company of all work areas.”

The union said the proposal also “set aside changes in operating practices the company was pursuing.”

BHP had reached a deal with the union early last week, but the agreement was pending approval by some 2,000 workers represented by the union.

Workers voted to reject the proposal on Thursday and threatened to strike if their demands weren’t met.

“The assemblies together with the (union) board of directors decided to reject the company’s proposal,” the union said in a statement Thursday, adding that its members considered proposed security measures to be insufficient and wanted “concrete and verifiable” measures such as joint inspections of work areas.

The company said in a statement that the proposal keeps initiatives that benefit both workers and the company.

“In addition, it includes a new ‘Safety Plan’ with concrete and collaborative actions that will strengthen the common efforts of the unions, joint committees and the company, which will begin to be implemented soon,” the statement said. (This story has been corrected to fix first day of the strike to Monday instead of Tuesday)

(Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Editing by Toby Chopra, David Evans and Jonathan Oatis)

South Korea’s striking truckers say no deal reached in govt talks

By Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea failed to reach agreement with a striking truckers’ union in the first session of talks on Monday, the fifth day of a nationwide walkout, the union said, as supply chain glitches worsen and concrete runs out at building sites.

The government, which estimates daily losses at about 300 billion won ($224 million) as supplies of cement and fuel for gas stations run short, raised its warning of cargo transport disruption to the highest level.

The lack of a resolution for the second major strike in less than six months by thousands of truckers demanding better pay and working conditions makes it more likely that the government will legally compel the strikers to return to work.

“The transport ministry’s position today was that ‘There is nothing the ministry can answer,'” the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU) said in a statement, adding that the next round of talks had been set for Wednesday.

The union said it had asked the government to withdraw steps toward issuing an “undemocratic and anti-constitutional” ‘work start order'”, adding that it would take a forward-looking stance on each request to reach an agreement.

The law allows use of such an order to tackle a serious transport disruption, and failure to comply can lead to punishments such as cancellation of trucker licences and three years in jail, or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).

The strike is disrupting industrial activity at a time when Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which is dependent on exports, expect a slump in growth, with the central bank having downgraded its 2023 forecast to 1.7% from 2.1%.

“We need to establish a rule of law between labour and management,” President Yoon Suk-yeol Yoon said on Monday, according to his office.

Yoon, who has criticised the strike as taking the nation’s logistics “hostage” in the face of an economic crisis, will hold a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to consider a ‘work start order’ for truckers to return to their jobs, his office said.

Once the cabinet decides on the order, it will be executed without delay, Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong said.

The truckers’ union has criticised the government for being unwilling to expand a minimum pay system beyond a further three years, instead of meeting union demands to make it permanent and widen its scope.

CONTAINER TRAFFIC DOWN

Container traffic at ports was 21% of normal levels by 10 a.m. (0100 GMT) on Monday, the transport ministry said, against Friday’s figure of 49%.

The steel industry, including POSCO and Hyundai Steel, saw shipments more than halve to 22,000 tonnes on Sunday, down from the usual average of 46,000 tonnes, the transport ministry said.

Some gas stations could run out of gasoline and kerosene as early as this week, especially in large cities, despite supplies secured ahead of the strike.

That is because about 70% to 80% of truckers for major refiners, such as SK Innovation’s SK Energy and S-Oil Corp, are union members on strike.

Since last week, work has halted at more than 250 building sites due to scarce concrete supplies, with most sites expected to run out by Tuesday, the transport ministry said.

The cement industry estimated an accumulated output loss of about 46.4 billion won ($35 million) by Saturday, with shipments down to 9% of usual levels, the Korea Cement Association said.

“Non-union bulk cement truck owners, who are implicitly sympathetic to, or in fear of, the cargo union’s illegal activities, are giving up cement transport,” the lobby group said in a statement.

($1=1,338.4000 won)

(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Clarence Fernandez)

Canada to boost defence, cyber security in Indo-Pacific policy, focus on ‘disruptive’ China

By David Ljunggren and Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada launched its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy on Sunday, outlining spending of C$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) to boost military and cyber security in the region and vowed to deal with a “disruptive” China while working with it on climate change and trade.

The plan, detailed in a 26-page document, said Canada would tighten foreign investment rules to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned enterprises from snapping up critical mineral supplies.

Canada seeks to deepen ties with a fast-growing Indo-Pacific region of 40 countries accounting for almost C$50 trillion in economic activity. But the focus is on China, which is mentioned more than 50 times, at a moment when two-way ties are frosty.

Four cabinet ministers at a news conference in Vancouver took turns detailing the new plan, saying the strategy was crucial for Canada’s national security and climate as well as its economic goals.

“We will engage in diplomacy because we think diplomacy is a strength, at the same time we’ll be firm and that’s why we have now a very transparent plan to engage with China,” said Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.

In Beijing, a foreign ministry spokesman said Canada’s new strategy was “full of ideological bias, exaggerating and speculating the so-called China threat, and making groundless accusations and attacks against China”.

“China is strongly dissatisfied with this, resolutely opposes it and has already made stern representations to the Canadian side,” the spokesman, Zhao Lijian, added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government wants to diversify trade and economic ties that are overwhelmingly reliant on the United States. Official data for September show two-way trade with China made up less than 7% of the total, versus 68% for the United States.

Canada’s outreach to Asian allies also comes as Washington has shown signs of becoming increasingly leery of free trade in recent years.

The document underscored Canada’s dilemma in forging ties with China, which offers significant opportunities for Canadian exporters, even as Beijing looks to shape the international order into a more “permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours,” it added.

CHALLENGE CHINA

Yet, the document said cooperation with the world’s second-biggest economy was necessary to address some of the “world’s existential pressures,” including climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.

“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” it said. “Our approach … is shaped by a realistic and clear-eyed assessment of today’s China. In areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China.”

Tension with China soared in late 2018 after Canadian police detained a Huawei Technologies executive and Beijing then arrested two Canadians on spying charges. All three were released last year, but relations remain sour.

This month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in Canadian critical minerals, citing national security.

The document, in a section mentioning China, said Ottawa would review and update legislation enabling it to act “decisively when investments from state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities threaten our national security, including our critical minerals supply chains.”

In a statement, Perrin Beatty, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, said, “Because the region is both large and diverse, one size definitely does not fit all.”

Canada’s priorities would need to be very nuanced both between and within countries, he added.

The document said Canada would boost its naval presence in the region and “increase our military engagement and intelligence capacity as a means of mitigating coercive behavior and threats to regional security.”

That would include annual deployment of three frigates, from two now, as well as participation of Canadian aviators and soldiers in regional military exercises, Defense Minister Anita Anand said at a separate news conference.

Canada belongs to the Group of Seven major industrialized nations, which wants significant measures in response to North Korean missile launches.

The document said Ottawa was engaging in the region with partners such as the United States and the European Union.

Canada needed to keep talking to nations it had fundamental disagreements with, it said, but did not name them.

($1=1.3377 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Additional reporting by Martin Pollard in Beijing; Editing by Mark Porter and Clarence Fernandez)

South Korea transport ministry to meet with striking truckers union on Monday

By Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korea’s transport ministry plans to meet with the striking truckers union on Monday for negotiations, a ministry official said on Saturday, with the impact of the strike expected to be more keenly felt through the country early next week.

Thousands of unionised truckers launched their second major strike in less than six months on Thursday, seeking better pay and working conditions. The action is already disrupting supply chains across the world’s 10th largest economy, affecting automakers, cement and steel producers.

“We requested dialogue with the union and the truckers union replied that they would meet with us on Monday at 2 p.m. … the talk is not yet finalised, but we plan to meet with the union and talk,” the ministry official told Reuters.

“We are ready to talk about reasonable demands of the trucker union at any time and will make efforts to solve the issues,” the ministry said in a statement on Saturday, adding it expects to see the effects of the action across industries such as steel by early next week.

Damage is already visible at construction sites, while workers at Hyundai Motor’s Ulsan factory are delivering new cars by driving them directly to customers.

A union official confirmed Monday’s meeting, which would be the first official dialogue between the two sides.

The transport ministry said about 5,000 people took part in the strike on Saturday in 136 locations nationwide, down from 9,600 on the first day of the strike.

CEMENT INDUSTRY

Container traffic at ports dropped to 19% of normal levels as of 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Saturday, the transport ministry said, down from 35% of normal levels in the morning.

The transport ministry expressed concerns about disruption in the supply of gasoline and kerosene if the strikes are prolonged, as about 80% of truckers carrying oil products for major refiners such as SK Innovation’s SK Energy and S-Oil Corp are members of the trucker union.

The cement industry estimated an output loss of about 37 billion won ($27.7 million) as of Friday, said lobby group Korea Cement Association. It added that the industry only managed to ship about 20,000 tonnes of cement on Friday, about 10% of usual daily shipments.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned on Thursday that the government would consider various options, such as issuing an order to break up the strike, calling it an illegal and unacceptable move to take the national supply chain “hostage” during an economic crisis.

According to South Korean law, during a serious disruption to transport the government may issue an order to force transport workers back to their jobs. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years in jail, or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).

The Korea International Trade Association (KITA) received 53 reports of disrupted logistics from 31 companies since the strike began.

($1 = 1,334.4800 won)

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang; Editing by Louise Heavens, David Holmes, Kirsten Donovan)

Pramod Mittal’s deal with creditors revoked by London court

By Sam Tobin

(Reuters) – The younger brother of steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal had his deal with creditors – under which he agreed to pay 0.2% of his total debts of more than $2 billion – overturned in a London court on Friday.

Pramod Mittal was declared bankrupt in June 2020 over an approximately $170 million debt owed to Moorgate Industries UK Limited, previously called Stemcor UK Limited.

The businessman entered into an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) with his creditors in October 2020.

Joseph Curl, representing Moorgate, said in court documents filed earlier this month that Mittal’s debts increased by a factor of more than 40 to almost $2.7 billion shortly before creditors voted on the IVA proposal.

Curl said loans to four of Mittal’s creditors carried “absolutely extraordinary” rates of compound interest, with interest making up more than 97% of his total debt.

Mittal’s lawyers argued Moorgate did not have any evidence to support its case that the loans were a “sham” or that they were created for a “fraudulent purpose”.

However, Judge Nicholas Briggs said in a ruling that “there was a material irregularity at the meeting of creditors convened to consider [Mittal’s] proposal” and revoked the IVA.

Mittal’s lawyer, in an emailed statement to Reuters, said: “Mr Mittal is disappointed with the decision and intends to appeal.

“He has already informed the judge of his intention and there will be a further hearing in the next few weeks to consider his application for permission to appeal.”

(Reporting by Sam Tobin; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Global equity funds face weekly outflows on growth worries

(Reuters) – Global equity funds saw outflows in the week ended Nov. 23 on worries over a recession due to higher interest rates and fresh lockdowns as COVID cases rise in China.

According to Refinitiv Lipper data, investors withdrew $8.6 billion and $840 million respectively from U.S. and European equity funds but invested $470 million in Asian equity funds.

(Graphic: Fund flows: Global equities bonds and money market – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lbpggnzxjpq/Fund%20flows-%20Global%20equities%20bonds%20and%20money%20market.jpg)

Among equity sector funds, financials, tech, and real estate funds had outflows of $751 million, $429 million, and $390 million, respectively, although consumer staples received $600 million worth of inflows.

Meanwhile, global bond funds posted outflows for a third straight week, amounting to $2.52 billion.

Global short- and mid-term bond funds saw withdrawals of $4.84 billion, the biggest weekly outflow in five weeks, but high-yield bond funds lured inflows for a second successive week, to the value of $2.35 billion.

Meanwhile, global government bond funds received inflows worth $809 million in a third straight week of net buying.

Global money market funds saw much bigger inflows, with investors bracing for the release of the Federal Reserve’s meeting minutes.

(Grphic: Fund flows: Global equity sector funds – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lgpdkwabxvo/Fund%20flows-%20Global%20equity%20sector%20funds.jpg)

The data showed investors accumulated global money market funds worth $26.4 billion, compared with an outflow of $9.4 billion in the previous week.

Energy funds remained in demand for the fifth consecutive week as they received net investment of $149 million. Investors also purchased about $18 million of precious metal funds after five weeks of net selling in a row.

(Graphic: Global bond fund flows in the week ended Nov 23 – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/dwpkdrlmyvm/Global%20bond%20fund%20flows%20in%20the%20week%20ended%20Nov%2023.jpg)

According to data available for 24,768 emerging market (EM) funds, EM equity funds received $1.11 billion but EM bond funds had outflows of $201 million after $233 million worth of net purchases the previous week.

(Graphic: Fund flows: EM equities and bonds – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/klvygkbrjvg/Fund%20flows-%20EM%20equities%20and%20bonds.jpg)

(Reporting by Gaurav Dogra and Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Bengaluru;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

South Korea president warns of crackdown as trucker strike enters second day

By Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang

SEOUL (Reuters) -South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol warned the government might step in to break up a nationwide strike by truckers, describing it as an illegal and unacceptable move to take the national supply chain “hostage” during an economic crisis.

Thousands of unionised truckers on Thursday launched their second major strike in less than six months seeking better pay and working conditions. The action is already disrupting supply chains across the world’s 10th largest economy, affecting automakers, cement and steel producers.

Union officials told Reuters there were no ongoing negotiations or dialogue with the government. The country’s transport ministry said it requested dialogue with the union on Thursday, but the parties have yet to agree on a date.

Union officials estimated about 25,000 people were joining the strike, out of about 420,000 total transport workers in South Korea. The transport ministry said about 6,700 people attended on Friday in about 160 locations nationwide, down from 9,600 people on Thursday.

“The public will not tolerate taking the logistics system hostage in the face of a national crisis,” Yoon said in a Facebook message late on Thursday, noting that exports were key to overcoming economic instability and financial market volatility.

“If the irresponsible denial of transport continues, the government will have no choice but to review a number of measures, including a work start order.”

According to South Korean law, during a serious disruption to transportation the government may issue an order to force transport workers back to their jobs. Failure to comply is punishable by up to three years of jail, or a fine of up to 30 million won ($22,550).

Were the government to take this option, it would be the first time in South Korean history such a order is issued.

The strike comes after South Korea saw October exports fall the most in 26 months as its trade deficit persisted for a seventh month, underlining the slowdown in its export-driven economy.

Amid the economic gloom, Yoon’s approval rating remained mostly flat for the fifth week at 30%, according to Gallup Korea on Friday, although his focus on economic affairs received a positive response.

‘HARD-LINE RESPONSE’

Outside the gate of the container depot at transport hub Uiwang, dozens of unionised truckers have set up camp and are staying overnight in white tents, watched by patrolling police although the strike has been peaceful so far.

“We are going to pour everything, resources and money, and execute every strategy we have,” said Lee Young-jo, director-general at the Seoul metropolitan chapter of the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU).

Lee said apart from existing funds, the union will collect emergency funds among its members if the strike is prolonged. “We are desperate, but the government and politicians are calculating their political gains and not sincerely hearing us,” he said.

As opposed to the previous walkout in June that was focused on hampering transport of containers, cement and cars, the union planned to expand their targets and disrupt supplies of groceries and fuel, Lee said.

The head of the union, Lee Bong-ju, said the truckers had no choice but to strike after the government stalled negotiations.

“The Yoon Suk-yeol government is threatening a hard-line response without any efforts to stop the strike,” he told reporters on Thursday.

On the first day of the strike, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) received 19 reports of cases of disrupted logistics. These included inability to bring in raw materials, higher logistics costs and delivery delays leading to penalties and trade with overseas buyers being scrapped.

In one instance, raw materials for a chemical company were delivered under police protection after the transport vehicle was blocked by striking truckers from entering a factory, KITA said.

Container traffic at ports had dropped to 28% of normal levels as of 5 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Friday, the transport ministry said, down from 49% of normal levels in the morning.

The cement industry sustained an output loss of an estimated 19 billion won ($14.26 million) on Thursday, lobby group Korea Cement Association said, after shipments slumped to less than 10,000 tonnes due to the strike.

This compares with South Korea’s 200,000 tonnes of cement demand per day in the peak season between September and early December. Construction sites are at risk of running out of building materials after the weekend.

The industry ministry said the steel sector also saw shipments drop on Thursday. POSCO, the country’s largest steelmaker, declined to comment on the extent.

Meanwhile, workers at Hyundai Motor’s Ulsan factory are expected to drive about 1,000 new cars to customers directly on Friday, after delivering about 50 cars on Thursday, a representative of a separate union at the factory told Reuters. So far there was no impact on auto output, the official said.

Drivers recruited by Hyundai Motor’s logistics affiliate Hyundai Glovis also began delivering some Kia Corp cars by driving them directly from Kia’s Gwangju plant to customers, a Kia official told Reuters.

The official did not say how many Kia cars would be delivered directly to buyers.

($1 = 1,332.4700 won)

(Reporting by Ju-min Park, Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Choonsik Yoo; editing by Kenneth Maxwell and Jason Neely)

Marketmind: Gloomy enough?

A look at the day ahead in U.S. and global markets from Mike Dolan.

As Americans digest turkey feasts and head to the shops, they may also give thanks that the economy looks better than feared – with questionable implications for investors seeking interest rate relief.

Recession across the developed world in 2023 appears to be consensus thinking among economists parsing the year ahead – and with it, they assume, disinflation and peak interest rates. Asset managers tout a return to beaten-down bonds as a result – even if there’s far less enthusiasm for equity in that environment.

And 10-year Treasury yields fell briefly to their lowest in over a month on Friday.

But the view hinges on economies slowing to a point that drags inflation back down toward 2% targets. So far at least, most incoming economic numbers are less gloomy than forecast.

Judging by Citi’s economic surprise indices, aggregate U.S. surprises remain positive and have been since September. Likewise equivalents for the euro zone, China and the world at large – with UK surprises the most positive since April.

That doesn’t mean economies aren’t slowing or even in recession – just that the data to date means market forecasting, and perhaps pricing, has been too negative on balance.

Of course, that’s all in the rear view mirror. More forward-looking signals from markets are relentlessly dark – with the 2-10 year yield curve inversion in the United States at its most negative in 22 years and Germany’s curve on Friday reaching its most inverted in 30 years.

As Thanksgiving typically sounds the starting bell for the following year’s investment decisions as well as the holiday sales season, retail readouts and related discounting will be crucial for central banks deciding when they can take their feet off the brakes next year.

The backdrop for retailers wasn’t great.

Workers at Amazon sites across the globe, including in the United States, Germany and France, were expected to go on strike on Black Friday. Production of Apple iPhones, meantime, could slump by at least 30% at Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou after worker unrest related to COVID curbs disrupted operations.

Far from tightening policy, the economic disruption in China from COVID lockdowns and a property sector bust forced its central bank on Friday to cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the second time this year, releasing about 500 billion yuan ($69.8 billion) in long-term liquidity.

The People’s Bank of China said it would cut the reserve requirement ratio for banks by 25 basis points. Earlier it said it would offer cheap loans to financial firms for buying the beaten down bonds of property developers.

Shanghai shares bucked an otherwise downbeat session for Asia bourses on Friday, with the yuan slightly weaker against a broadly stable dollar. European stocks and Wall Street futures were mostly flat. Oil prices were a touch higher.

Key developments that may provide direction to U.S. markets later on Friday:

* Black Friday retail readout

GRAPHIC: Gloom overdone? – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/akveqzxwmvr/One.PNG

GRAPHIC: Black Friday forecasts – https://graphics.reuters.com/GLOBAL-MARKET/THEMES/gkplwgxkavb/chart.png

GRAPHIC: Global bond fund flows in the week ended Nov 23 – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/dwpkdrlmyvm/Global%20bond%20fund%20flows%20in%20the%20week%20ended%20Nov%2023.jpg

GRAPHIC: Unrest at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou plant in China – https://graphics.reuters.com/FOXCONN-CHINA/dwvkdrlnypm/graphic.jpg

(By Mike Dolan, editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise mike.dolan@thomsonreuters.com. Twitter: @reutersMikeD)

Marketmind: Hangover

A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Tom Westbrook

Treasuries emerged from Thanksgiving in fine fettle, but other assets were a little slower off the mark in Asia, with traders’ looking ahead to U.S. jobs and growth data next week.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes fell more than five basis points to an eight-week low of 3.65%.

COVID and inflation kept a cap on things elsewhere – with core consumer prices rising at their fastest clip in 40 years in Tokyo truly a sign that inflation is everywhere. Japanese government bonds fell. [JP/]

China on Friday reported another record high of daily COVID-19 infections and the Hang Seng slipped 0.7%. Bonds and Malaysia’s currency rallied after the appointment of Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister, capping his journey from protege of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad to protest leader, a prisoner convicted of sodomy and opposition leader.

Consumer confidence surveys in France and Germany, and final German GDP data headline an otherwise quiet calendar in Europe, while holidays will likely thin U.S. trade into the weekend.

U.S. Growth and jobs figures next week will be watched for interest rate implications, but the real focus for markets around the world is on U.S. CPI data due on Dec. 13 and the Federal Reserve meeting that wraps up the following day.

Graphic: Ten-year yield cresting? – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/znpnbenjbpl/Two.PNG

Key developments that could influence markets on Friday:

German GDP, French and German consumer surveys, speeches by ECB policymakers Kerstin and de Guindos

(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Australia to become ‘more assertive’ on foreign investment in critical minerals

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Top lithium supplier Australia is set to become more selective about who it lets invest in its growing critical minerals industry, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said on Friday.

Australia, a major supplier of minerals key to the energy transition like rare earths, has more to gain by encouraging investment from allies to build up its minerals processing industry, Chalmers said at a conference in Sydney.

“Foreign investment is a good thing when it’s in our national interest,” Chalmers said.

“But as investment interest grows, and as the sources of that investment interest grow, we’ll need to be more assertive about encouraging investment that clearly aligns with our national interest in the longer term.”

Chalmers stopped short of announcing any review of existing international holdings of operations, after Canada ordered three foreign firms to divest from its critical minerals sector earlier this month.

The Labor government which took power in May is buttressing Australia’s policy to build out a critical minerals processing supply chain.

Federal investment is already helping to construct a processing plant run by Iluka Resources as part of its A$2 billion Critical Minerals Facility.

Resources Minister Madeleine King in a separate speech flagged recent developments in Australia’s burgeoning critical minerals processing industry.

The strategy will provide friendly nations with an alternative at a time when Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine has underlined the strategic risks of having a dominant supplier, Chalmers said.

“To put it as simply as I can – our international friends need to rely on someone, so let’s have them relying on us,” he said.

Australia is revising its critical minerals strategy and has been positioning itself as a green superpower, backed by its mineral endowments.

It signed a Critical Minerals Partnership with Japan in October and its Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 will include a focus on resources, energy and the green economy, Chalmers said.

($1 = 1.4799 Australian dollars)

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Dollar nears 3-mth low, shares climb after Fed tests the brakes

By Marc Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Shares hit a two-month high and the dollar swooped towards a three-month low on Thursday, after Federal Reserve signals of smaller interest rate rises from next month were followed by the message from Frankfurt that the ECB will plough on.

With Wall Street shut for Thanksgiving, it was up to Europe to continue the rebound in market confidence that has been building for more than a month.

It seemed a bit of a struggle early on when London’s FTSE refused to budge, but there were just enough gains in the rest of Europe [.EU] and in Asia [.SS][.T] overnight to ensure things kept shuffling forward.

By lunch MSCI’s 47-country index of world stocks was at its highest since mid-September, while German and British government bond yields, which drive Europe’s borrowing costs, had fallen to their lowest levels since October and September respectively. [.EU]

“The Federal Reserve minutes signalled that some sensible voices are trying to drown out Fed Chair Powell’s relentless ‘hike, hike, hike’ chant,” said UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan.

A “substantial majority” of Fed policymakers had agreed it would “likely soon be appropriate” to slow the pace of interest rate rises, the minutes released on Wednesday showed, although Donovan pointed out that there was no signal of an actual halt yet and various Fed members thought rates might need to go “somewhat higher” than expected.

Futures markets show investors now see U.S. rates peaking just above 5% by May and are pricing in a roughly 75% chance that the Fed now switches to 50 basis point rises rather than the 75 bps it has been using recently.

The ECB’s equivalent minutes out on Thursday showed its rate setters fear that inflation may now be getting entrenched in the euro zone.

“Incoming data so far suggest that the room for slowing down the pace of interest rate adjustments remains limited, even as we are approaching estimates of the ‘neutral’ rate,” one of its most influential Executive Board members Isabel Schnabel said separately.

For the currency markets, it meant the 7-week sell-off in the dollar continued. [/FRX]

The euro rose as high as $1.0447, edging it closer to its recent four-month top of $1.0481, while the dollar weakened 0.6% against the Japanese yen to 138.70 yen and past $1.20 against sterling.

“The dollar could stay pressured for a bit longer, but it’s probably embedding a good deal of Fed-related negatives now,” analysts at ING wrote.

TURKEY ON THANKSGIVING

The Fed wasn’t the only focus. Sweden’s crown nudged higher as its central bank increased its rates by three-quarters of a percentage point to 2.5% and signalled more next year.

Germany’s closely followed Ifo business climate index also rose more than expected, following on from some upbeat data from France too, while Turkey surprised no one as its slashed another 150 bps off its interest rates despite eyewateringly-high inflation of over 85%.

The Turkish central bank said that it marked the end of its cuts, however with presidential elections next year creating doubts about that the lira carved down to new record low.

Overnight, Asian markets had seen Japan’s Nikkei and South Korean shares both rose around 1%.

The Bank of Korea had reduced its pace of rate increases to 25 basis points. In Japan, data showed manufacturing activity had contracted at its fastest in two years.

Chinese property stocks also stormed nearly 7% higher, after banks there pledged at least $38 billion in fresh credit lines to cash-strapped developers, although the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.25% as the country’s COVID cases continued to surge.

In the oil market, prices were slipping toward a major support level established in September. If they breach it, oil could tumble to levels not seen since before late 2021.

Brent crude futures fell 0.3% to $85.13. U.S. crude oil futures eased 0.2% to $77.74 per barrel. They had tumbled more than 3% on Wednesday as the Group of Seven (G7) nations considered a price cap on Russian oil above the current market level. [O/R]

Recession fears remain intense. Wednesday’s post-Fed U.S. bond market moves had seen yields on 10-year notes drop to a huge 79-basis-point deficit relative to two-year yields.

Such a curve inversion has not been seen since the dot-com bust of 2000 and, on the face of it, is a signal that investors expect a deep economic downturn in coming months.

(Additional reporting by Stella Qiu in Sydney; Editing by Robert Birsel, William Maclean)

South Korea truckers strike again with auto, battery supply chains at risk

By Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang

UIWANG, South Korea (Reuters) -Unionised truckers in South Korea kicked off their second major strike in less than six months on Thursday, threatening to disrupt manufacturing and fuel supplies for industries from autos to petrochemicals in the world’s 10th-largest economy.

With fuel costs soaring, the truckers are calling on the government to make permanent a minimum-pay system known as the ‘Safe Freight Rate’ that is due to expire by the end of the year, and to expand benefits for truckers in other industries, including oil tankers.

The government has said it will extend the scheme for three years but rejected other union demands. In June, an eight-day, non-violent strike by truckers delayed cargo shipments across Asia’s fourth-largest economy, costing more than $1.2 billion in lost output and unmet deliveries before it ended with each side claiming it won concessions.

The organising union kicked off 16 rallies across the country on Thursday morning, including at a port in Ulsan that houses Hyundai Motor’s main manufacturing plant.

The union estimated about 22,000 are taking part in the rallies, while the transport ministry said about 9,600 people attended, and there were no clashes with police monitoring events.

As a noisy rally got under way at transport hub Uiwang, 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Seoul, hundreds of truckers marched around the depot – watched by a heavy police presence – carrying banners and wearing headbands with the slogan “Unite Fight”. They chanted, “We stop, the world will stop!” and “Let’s stop driving to change the world!”.

Union officials said about a thousand truckers gathered at the rally, where the head of the union’s Seoul metropolitan area branch, Lee Kwang-jae, told them to take up key positions to try to block any attempts to make shipments. One person leading the protesters called out to a container truck making for a depot, “Don’t embarrass yourself by working. Join us!”

They planned to split in two groups, with half staying at Uiwang and the other half heading to Pyeongtaek, about 44 kilometres (27 miles) away, which is close to ports serving China.

At Busan, South Korea’s biggest port, police officers and buses were seen lined up along key routes.

Lead organiser the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU) has warned the strike could stop oil supplies at major refineries and transport at major ports and industrial plants.

Container traffic at ports has dropped to 40% compared to normal levels since the strike began, the transport ministry said late Thursday, but added no major damage had been reported so far as companies moved shipments pre-emptively.

The union has said almost all of CTSU’s 25,000 members, about 6% of the country’s truck drivers, will take part in the strike, joined by an unspecified number of non-union members.

The transport ministry estimated that about 8,000 people were camped out at 14 regions to protest overnight on Thursday.

“We have no choice but to stop all logistics in Korea,” said Lee Bong-ju, head of the union, on Thursday.

‘CRACK DOWN’

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Won Hee-ryong said the Safe Freight Rate system had not been proven to improve the safety of truckers but to only raise their incomes, a reason why the government has refused to expand the scope of the scheme.

“The government and the ruling party misled, and openly defended capital saying that truckers’ income levels were not low – and that if the Safe Freight Rate system were expanded, prices could rise due to increased logistics costs,” Lee said.

The union is asking the government to ensure big businesses are held accountable if they violate the minimum wages rule.

“Frontline truck drivers should not be sympathetic to unjustified collective action. We will strictly crack down on truck drivers’ obstruction with the police so that safe transportation can be ensured,” Transport Minister Won said on Thursday.

The transport ministry said the government is open to “reasonable” dialogue, but union head Lee said that the ministry unilaterally stalled negotiations and have not made official request for dialogue since.

Industry giants including Hyundai Motor and steelmaker POSCO were forced to cut output by the June strike.

“If the cargo union strike continues, it will put too much of a burden on not only major industries, but also people’s livelihoods and the national economy,” said Prime Minister Han Duck-soo on Thursday.

Companies such as Hyundai Steel, petrochemical firms and a battery maker told Reuters that because the strike was expected, urgent contract volumes were shipped out and necessary raw materials were prepared in advance. However, limits in storage space and logistics would make the strike problematic if it lasted.

A Hyundai Steel spokesperson said its daily shipment of about 8,000 tonnes of steel products at its Pohang factory could not be moved on Thursday due to the strike.

The government is deploying alternatives such as military-run container transport vehicles and considering securing more storage space in case cargoes pile up. Some industry officials noted that military vehicles may not be equipped to carry products such as steel or fresh produce.

The Korea Oil Station Association is asking gas station owners to secure enough inventory ahead of the strike, an association official said earlier, while charging stations for hydrogen-powered cars have put up signs warning that supply could be cut.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Heekyong Yang; Additional reporting by Soo-hyang Choi; Writing by Joyce Lee; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kenneth Maxwell)

Australia to beef up laws to safeguard Aboriginal heritage

MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Australia will strengthen laws to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage, Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said on Thursday, following a review of mining standards after Rio Tinto’s destruction of the sacred Juukan Gorge rock shelters.

Rio escaped broader government sanctions in Thursday’s response to a 16-month parliamentary inquiry into how it destroyed the rock shelters in mid-2020 for an iron ore mine.

Both Plibersek and Prime Minster Anthony Albanese said the global miner had not broken any laws, and instead blamed a system that did not protect cultural sites from mining and other development.

“This was not an isolated mistake or an example of one company going rogue,” Plibersek said on Thursday, speaking in parliament. “What’s clear from this report is that our system is not working,” she said.

The Juukan Gorge rock shelters had shown evidence of human habitation dating back 46,000 years into the last Ice Age and the destruction caused deep distress to the site’s traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti, Kurrama and Pinikura (PKKP) peoples.

The traditional owners said they were angry and disappointed they had not been consulted about the government’s response.

Institutional investor HESTA said new recommendations as outlined in the report would improve standards and cut the risk of cultural heritage mismanagement.

“We continue to engage with companies in which we invest to ensure they negotiate, early, fairly and in good faith with Traditional Owners,” CEO Debby Blakey told Reuters in a statement.

The government had accepted all but one recommendation out of the eight from last year’s parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the historically and culturally significant site at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, Plibersek told parliament.

The decision on whether the final responsibility for heritage protection should sit with the Indigenous Affairs Minister or the Environment Minister is still being assessed, Plibersek said.

The government stopped short of backing a recommendation in the interim report that Rio pay restitution for its damage. It said instead it would “consider the issues raised” regarding compensation as it develops the new national framework legislation.

“Juukan Gorge, a site of huge significance to First Nations people, was destroyed two years ago,” Prime Minister Albanese said on social media.

“But no laws were broken,” he posted on Twitter. “It’s wrong. So we’re changing it.”

Chief Executive Jacob Stausholm said Rio Tinto would look at the government’s recommendations, “as we continue to strive to be the best partner we can be, and play an active role in ensuring heritage sites of exceptional significance are protected.”

Widespread outrage at the destruction of the Juukan Gorge site put a focus on industry practices and cost the jobs of Rio Tinto’s then-chief executive and three other senior leaders.

It also spurred other big miners in Western Australia to overhaul their agreements with traditional owners.

“All of this started with the destruction of our cultural heritage, everyone keeps on telling us they are sorry about it, but actions speak louder than words,” the PKKP Aboriginal Corporation said in a statement.

“We have tasted the devastation and we know what needs to be done,” it said, without elaborating.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Kenneth Maxwell and Tom Hogue)

Marketmind: COVID vs RRR

By Stella Qiu

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Stella Qiu:

Another central bank pivots. The Bank of Korea on Thursday slowed its pace of tightening to a modest 25 basis point hike, becoming the latest central bank to step down from outsized rate increases.

This has aided the risk-on mood in the market, with Asian shares mostly advancing and U.S. dollar broadly weaker.

Overnight, markets rejoiced at the prospect of the U.S. Federal Reserve downshifting to a smaller 50 basis point hike at its next policy meeting in December, ignoring warnings that rates might still have to peak above 5% by mid next year.

The minutes of the Fed’s November policy meeting showed a “substantial majority” of policymakers reckon it will “likely soon be appropriate” to slow the pace of rate hikes.

Long-term Treasuries jumped. Yields on 10-year notes dropped to be a huge 79 basis points below two-year yields, a curve inversion on a scale not seen since the dotcom bust of 2000 and, on the face of it, a signal investors expect a deep economic downturn in coming months.

However, much U.S. economic data remains healthy, regardless of what the bond market says. The Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow showed the economy expanding at an annualised rate of 4.3% so far in the fourth quarter, implying growth is speeding up, not slowing down.

Elsewhere, China’s new economic stimulus – a likely cut to the banks’ reserve requirement ratio and a rescue package for the battered property sector – helped real estate stocks but failed to lift the wider mainland market, which fell 0.3% as surging COVID cases still dominated investor sentiment.

China’s COVID infections hit a record high, with Beijing, which has the strictest rules, failing to contain the spreading virus. In fact, the author’s old community building in Beijing has been sealed off for at least three days, its first such shutdown.

Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura, says a RRR cut is likely to be of little use, as the biggest roadblock lies in the government’s zealous approach to dealing with COVID, rather than insufficient loanable funds.

“In our view, ending zero COVID as soon as possible is the key to raising credit demand and bolstering growth.”

Key developments that could influence markets on Thursday:

Germany Ifo Business Climate index

Riksbank likely to raise rates by 75 basis points, with risk of 100 bp

Speakers: ECB officials including vice president Luis de Guindos, Board member Andrea Enria, Executive Board Isabel Schnabel, and Bank of England’s Dave Ramsden and Huw Pill

(Editing by Sam Holmes)

Analysis-Trump lesson on U.S. protectionism guides Canadian foreign policy

By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government learned a lesson when former U.S. President Donald Trump forced the renegotiation of the North American trade pact five years ago: never underestimate U.S. protectionism.

Taking that lesson to heart has prompted Canada to mirror U.S. strategy in the Pacific and tout itself as an alternative to China for vital clean technology materials in the hope that becoming a long-term strategic partner of the United States will insulate it from protectionist impulses in the future.

In recent speeches to Washington policymakers and in its foreign policy alignment with the United States over China, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and on Arctic defenses, Canadian officials are trying to ensure their country’s powerful southern neighbor recognizes the value of its friendship.

The next U.S. presidential election is less than two years away and Trump last week said he would run again, suggesting the “America first” trade policy could again be on the ballot. Even without Trump, the United States has shown signs of becoming increasingly leery of free trade in recent years.

Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel during his term, while President Joe Biden considered tax incentives for American carmakers that would have hurt Canada’s auto sector, before abandoning the idea in August after a major lobbying effort from Ottawa.

“You always have to have a mind to (the U.S. election in) 2024… When America goes America first, they forget Canada’s right next door,” said a senior source familiar with the Canadian government’s thinking on foreign policy.

Protectionist policies that hurt Canada are “a bigger risk with Trump because he’s so unpredictable and mercurial,” said Roland Paris, Trudeau’s former foreign policy adviser and professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.

But Trump reflects a broader shift away from free trade in U.S. politics “that is a challenge for Canada in dealing with any U.S. administration,” Paris said.

Canada, as a result, is poised to introduce an Indo-Pacific strategy as soon as next week that in many ways mirrors the one with the same name released by the United States earlier this year, both aiming to counter Chinese power in the region.

At the same time, the Trudeau government is busy promoting Canada as a potential alternative supplier to China, especially on critical minerals like cobalt, manganese, lithium and graphite for electric vehicle batteries, a market the Chinese now dominate.

CANADA-CHINA TENSIONS

Canadian and Chinese relations have been chilly since Canada’s arrest of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 on a U.S. extradition request, and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges. That standoff ended last year.

Two meetings between Trudeau and China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit last week laid bare ongoing tensions. In the second chat, Xi admonished Trudeau for leaking the contents of their first meeting, where he brought up Chinese “interference” in Canada’s elections.

“I don’t want to undermine the Indo-Pacific strategy by saying it’s entirely about the United States, because it’s not, but having a strong Indo-Pacific strategy is also important in our bilateral relationship with the United States,” the senior source said.

Trudeau and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly toured the Indo-Pacific region last week, meeting with leaders and announcing new investments to help build infrastructure in the region.

Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne this week is leading a trade delegation to Japan and Korea.

“The Indo-Pacific strategy is about diversification” of supply chains, Champagne told Reuters on Friday, saying he wanted to convey the message that: “We can be your supplier of choice, especially when it comes to critical minerals, when it comes to energy.” It was his third trip to Japan in six months.

In October, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed an idea that U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen first brought up earlier this year about “friend-shoring” or outsourcing supply chains to trusted countries, instead of relying on authoritarian governments like Russia or China.

“Where democracies must be strategically vulnerable, we should be vulnerable to each other,” Freeland said in a speech at the Brookings Institution policy think-tank in Washington.

Ten days later, Champagne took a similar message to a panel discussion for business leaders in Washington, urging a “decoupling” from China.

Canada will not be caught off-guard by U.S. protectionist urges, said the senior source.

“It’s natural that over time, people forget that their neighbors have a lawnmower they can borrow. We’re saying we’re right here. We’ve got it.”

($1 = 1.3449 Canadian dollars)

(Editing by Deepa Babington)

Italy and France agree on need to strengthen industrial ties, Rome says

ROME (Reuters) – Italy and France agree they should strive to reinforce industrial ties, Rome’s Industry Minister Adolfo Urso said on Wednesday after talks in Paris with his French counterpart.

“France and Italy have on this occasion confirmed the need to strengthen bilateral industrial relations, especially in some sectors,” Urso’s ministry said in a statement.

The statement listed the sectors liable for further cooperation as energy, microchips, and the fashion, steel and automotive industries.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini, editing by Gianluca Semeraro)

Marketmind: Fearless?

A look at the day ahead in U.S. and global markets from Mike Dolan.

As bond markets furiously flag a looming recession, stock markets suddenly seem fearless.

Wall St’s so-called ‘fear index’ of implied equity volatility fell on Tuesday to its lowest level since August. At just 21, the index is below the median of the past 12 months and is almost half the peaks hit earlier in the year.

Put against the deepening inversion of the U.S. 2-10 year Treasury yield curve to its most negative in 22 years, typically a harbinger of recession ahead, the apparent stock market calm is puzzling. And it’s not just the United States, Germany’s equivalent yield curve inversion hit its deepest since 2008.

Some analysts reckon stock market positioning is already so low and portfolios so underweight equity that demand for downside protection in the options market has waned too.

Others feel the oncoming recession will just ease energy and inflation pressures, hasten an end to central bank tightening and see a retreat in long-term borrrowing costs that have dogged stock markets all year.

A readout from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting later on Wednesday will be watched for clues on that.

Flash readings of European business sentiment in November showed at least some of the gloom lifting, however, with activity shrinking less rapidly than forecast. Surveyed German firms indicated that the deep contraction there had eased as price pressures fell back.

U.S. business surveys are due later.

Oil prices inched higher as data showing a larger-than-expected U.S. crude drawdown last week outweighed concerns about lower fuel demand from China amid tightening COVID-19 curbs.

China stocks perked up after China’s Bank of Communications agreed to provide a 100-billion-yuan credit line to developer Vanke – the latest sign of support for the embattled property sector.

But the COVID outbreak and its fallout only got worse.

Chinese authorities imposed more restrictions, adding to worries about the economy just amid fresh unrest at the world’s largest iPhone factory. Hundreds of workers joined protests at Foxconn’s flagship Apple iPhone plant, with some smashing surveillance cameras and windows, footage uploaded on social media showed.

Any hoping for an end to the jump in interest rate rate rises around the world were also disappointed.

New Zealand’s central bank hiked rates by a record 75 basis points and warned the economy might have to spend an entire year in recession to bring sky-high inflation under control.

Sterling was firmer as the top UK court ruled that Scotland’s government cannot hold a second referendum on independence without approval from Britain’s parliament, dealing a hammer blow to nationalists’ hopes of a vote next year.

Banking stress returned to the headlines.

Credit Suisse fell 4% after the embattled Swiss bank said it expects to make a pre tax loss of up to 1.5 billion Swiss francs ($1.58 billion) during its fourth quarter as it prepares to ask shareholders to clear a $4 billion equity hike.

The world of sports finance was brighter. Manchester United shares jumped almost 15% on Tuesday after it said it was seeking new investment or a potential sale 17 years after the American Glazer family bought the English Premier League soccer club.

Key developments that may provide direction to U.S. markets later on Wednesday:

* Flash Nov business surveys in U.S. and around the world, weekly jobless claims, University of Michigan Nov consumer sentiment and inflation expectations, U.S. Oct new home sales and Oct durable goods orders

* Federal Open Market Committee issues minutes from its meeting of Nov 1-2

* UK finance minister Jeremy Hunt answers budget questions from House of Commons’ Treasury Committee

* US corporate earnings: Deere

(By Mike Dolan, editing by Alexandra Hudson mike.dolan@thomsonreuters.com. Twitter: @reutersMikeD)

S. Korea braces for supply disruptions as trucker strike looms

By Heekyong Yang and Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea said on Wednesday it would consider deploying military trucks for urgent transport as it prepares for a planned strike by truckers that is stoking fears over the nation’s post-pandemic recovery and global supply chains.

The nationwide strike by trucker unions, expected to start at midnight (1500 GMT), would be the second in less than six months to disrupt manufacturing and fuel supplies in the world’s 10th-largest economy.

Lead organiser Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union (CTSU), which is pushing for an extension of minimum wage guarantees, has warned of stopping oil supplies at major refineries as well as transport at major ports and industrial plants.

Land Minister Won Hee-ryong said that the government would consider deploying military trucks to areas needed for urgent transport.

He also threatened to suspend the licences of striking drivers if the walkout was prolonged.

“I am asking the Cargo Truckers Solidarity Union to withdraw the plan to strike now,” Won said in a video posted on the ministry’s YouTube channel, adding that he is open to communications with the union to minimise the damage.

In June, an eight-day strike by truckers delayed cargo shipments for industries from autos to semiconductors in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, costing more than $1.2 billion in lost output and unmet deliveries.

Industry giants including Hyundai Motor and steelmaker POSCO were forced to cut output due to the June strike, and POSCO has warned the fresh action could slow repair works at a major plant hit by floods this summer.

The Korea Oil Station Association is asking gas station owners to secure enough inventory ahead of the strike, an association official said on Wednesday.

“We learned some lessons from the last strike,” said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

CTSU has demanded that the government extend its “Safe Trucking Freight Rate”, a scheme launched during the COVID-19 pandemic to guarantee a minimum annual wage that is due to expire in December.

The government and ruling party offered a three-year extension of the rate policy on Tuesday, but refused to accept the unions’ demand to cover truckers in other industries, including fuel and steel. CTSU rejected that compromise deal.

The transport ministry had said some 7,000 people participated in the June strike, while the union said more than 22,000 took part.

“We had left a minimum breathing room last time but we’re cornered now given the deadline, and will block as many shipments as possible,” Lee Eung-joo, a union official, told Reuters.

He added that almost all of CTSU’s 25,000 members would take part in the upcoming strike, joined by an unspecified number of non-union members.

The Korea International Trade Association, a shippers’ body, said on Wednesday that it has created a task force to handle any disruptions and minimise trade damage.

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang, Hyonhee Shin, Soo-hyang Choi and Ju-min Park; Editing by Jamie Freed)

Marketmind: On the fence

A look at the day ahead in European and global markets from Ankur Banerjee:

Investors are holding back on big bets as COVID curbs in China keep risk appetite in check, while the focus is shifting firmly to the Fed minutes due to be released later on Wednesday.

The market has been looking, almost clamouring, for signs of slowdown in the pace of interest rate hikes. The oft-looked-for but not-yet-sighted Fed pivot might be on the horizon. Or so the market hopes.

Wednesday also happens to be PMI day with preliminary November readings scheduled to be released across the globe, with data from the UK and euro zone likely to take the centre stage.

And so, the dollar remains on guard, Asian equities mostly tracked Wall Street gains and gold stayed flat.

The tentativeness among investors is in stark contrast with the soccer world, which remains in shock after Saudi Arabia came from behind to beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina in the World Cup.

Sticking with football (erm soccer), the owners of English Premier League giants Manchester United have started the process of potentially selling the club. The move from Glazer family comes weeks after bitter rival Liverpool also announced they were exploring a sale.

Meanwhile, sky-high inflation remains difficult to tame, with New Zealand’s central bank delivering its biggest interest rate hike and outlining a more hawkish monetary tightening path in coming months. The central bank warned the economy might have to spend an entire year in recession to bring inflation under control.

Elsewhere, the turmoil in the crypto world rumbles on, with New York Times reporting that Genesis Global Capital has hired investment bank Moelis & Company to explore options including a potential bankruptcy for the troubled cryptocurrency lender.

The first bankruptcy hearing for FTX showed that the collapsed crypto exchange has been the subject of cyberattacks and had “substantial” assets missing.

Key developments that could influence markets on Wednesday:

Economic events: November flash PMI data from Europe, UK

Speakers: Bank of England’s Huw Pill, UK finance minister Jeremy Hunt answers budget questions from House of Commons’ Treasury Committee

Riksbank to hold monetary policy meeting

Graphic: Central banks ramp up fight against inflation – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEWZEALAND-ECONOMY/RATES/gkplwgbrjvb/chart.png

Graphic: The race to raise rates – https://graphics.reuters.com/NEWZEALAND-ECONOMY/RATES/dwvkdrkoapm/chart.png

(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee; Editing by Anshuman Daga and Sam Holmes)

Marketmind: Wild oil ride amid China and crypto woe

A look at the day ahead in U.S. and global markets from Mike Dolan.

Turbulence in oil, China’s COVID crunch and unravelling cryptocurrencies make for uncomfortable reading for investors starting to parse what looks like a recessionary year ahead.

Higher interest rates and slowing economies dominate most 2023 outlooks, not least Tuesday’s latest from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Although it expects the global economy at large to skirt outright recession, the Paris-based OECD said it sees world growth slowing to 2.2% next year from 3.1% in 2022 – with both British and German economies likely to contract in 2023.

Underlining the growth gloom, China’s battle with COVID and its widening curbs only seemed to worsen. Beijing shut parks, shopping malls and museums while more Chinese cities resumed mass testing for COVID-19 as the country reported new infections near April’s peaks.

Although Hong Kong stocks took another outsize hit, downbeat world markets were more mixed on Tuesday as ebbing oil prices – weighed down by China’s woes and world recession fears – went on a wild rollercoaster ride over the past 24 hours.

Brent crude plunged more than 5% to 10-month lows of $82 per barrel at one point late on Monday amid reports OPEC was considering lifting output. But Saudi denials saw it regain all those losses since and it hovered about $88 first thing today.

The U.S. dollar also gave back some of Monday’s sharp gains. San Francisco Federal Reserve President Mary Daly struck a more measured note on Fed tightening by saying on Monday that the real-world impact of the U.S. central bank’s interest rate hikes is likely greater than what its short-term rate target implies.

Pain in the crypto world continued, with many investors fearing the fallout from the collapse of exchange FTX is just beginning.

Bitcoin – which is now down almost 80% over the past year – dropped to a two-year low of $15,481 late Monday. Analysts estimate more than 55% of all the money ever invested in the leading cryptocurrency is now underwater.

Investigations, recriminations and lawsuits across the crypto sector continued. Cryptocurrency lender Genesis said on Monday it has no immediate plans to file for bankruptcy, days after the FTX failure forced it to suspend customer redemptions.

And another worrying development for anyone involved in the area was a rise of lawsuits against sponsors and advertisers of the failed FTX – a shot across the bow to many celebrities, sports teams and corporate advertisers dabbling in crypto.

The Golden State Warriors were sued on Monday by an FTX customer who accused the reigning National Basketball Association champions of fraudulently promoting the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange. And Bloomberg News reporters American football star Tom Brady was being probed by Texas regulators.

In corporate news, Baidu’s third-quarter revenue beat estimates as China’s search engine giant benefited from a recovery in online advertising sales and growth in its cloud and artificial intelligence business.

Key developments that may provide direction to U.S. markets later on Tuesday:

* Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s Nov Non-manufacturing business survey, Richmond Fed Nov business survey, Euro zone Nov consumer confidence

* Cleveland Federal Reserve President Loretta Mester, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard and Kansas City Fed chief Esther George all speak.

* US corporate earnings: Analog Devices, HP, Dollar Tree, Autodesk

* U.S. Treasury sells 7-year notes, 2-year floating rate notes

(By Mike Dolan, editing by Alexandra Hudson mike.dolan@thomsonreuters.com. Twitter: @reutersMikeD)